Hey so, hey, listen, this isn’t exactly good, but it’s MAGNIFICENT. The Elton John movie, as you might expect—nay, desire—is just wall-to-wall cheese, aaallll for the snacking. Rocketman is dazzlingly stupid and so stupidly charming. It’s big and bright and gay and sappy and really, so very dumb, I cannot emphasize enough how dumb this movie is, but at the same time, they made really smart choices? Or scratch that, no: they made the ~*Galaxy Brain*~ choices. For starters, they didn’t make a musician biopic, they made a musical about a musician. That’s immediately so much better!! I’m not sure the cast sings any more than one song at the actual chronological point in which it was written, but I am pretty sure that Taron Egerton is wearing a different pair of glasses in Every. Single. Scene. And these are the kind of choices I want from my Elton John musical.
Incidentally, Taron Egerton in this? A delight. I just had so much goodwill towards him. He manages this magic trick of committing 110% at every single moment, while never crossing over into feeling like he’s trying too hard. There’s this happy comfortableness to his performance that’s really endearing—I saw one critic call him “casually adorable”—while you’re simultaneously so impressed at his rigorous commitment to just leaping up there and belting his heart out while covered in sequins. And he can actually belt pretty well! He’s a good little singer doing a very savvy impression of a very famous voice. Honestly, I might even have enough goodwill toward him to carry me all the way through his year-long Best Actor campaign without even starting to resent him. Let’s try!
The rest of the cast is also really going for it, which is of course the only right way to do an ebullient musical fantasia. Much to-do has been made of Egerton’s romantic scenes with Richard Madden, playing Elton’s lover slash manager slash enemy (an Arc), and I will just say: this is a real horny movie! It’s not like anything’s that explicit, but it is energetically GAY, and yay. Personally I’ve always found Richard Madden curiously non-hot, but the fellas all seem to love him, and this one’s for them. Enjoy, fellas! Beauty-wise I was most struck by this very cute eyebrow boy playing one of Elton’s early managers, about whom another character once snips “Being lovely isn’t a job” in response to Elton protesting that isn’t he though? At one emotional point for me Young Sir Eyebrows drunkenly held up a pair of car keys and I quietly wailed into my friend’s shoulder “Nooo you’re too pretty to die!” Don’t worry he doesn’t, this is adamantly not that kind of movie.
In fact, after the age-old story of a pop star’s rise to fame & subsequent battle with addiction, what this movie may be most is a touching platonic love story. Somewhere around the time I watched Moulin Rouge!, if I recall, I learned that ‘Your Song’ was written right after baby Elton met baby Bernie Taupin, who would be his lifelong lyricist and best friend, and was lost in wonder at how staggeringly sweet that is. ‘Your Song’ is genuinely one of the most darling songs in the world, and if you only have a handful of scene’s worth of time to depict the kind of person who would write that song, you could do a lot worse than cast Jamie Bell to play him. He just radiates kindness and loyalty and love — SO many times in this movie Bernie openly tells Elton he loves him, it is so dear. Anyway that’s the scene I cried at. Of course, as surely the John/Taupin song with the most charmingly straightforward lyrics, these are some of the only words sung in this movie that really feel emotionally and literally rooted in the part of the story that they’re occurring in. So, had extra oomph going on there. But I’m not like, trying to justify my weepery, I will fully own it: I cried watching Rocketman.
It’s absurd that Rocketman is shaping up to be my longest review so far this year, so let me just try to blow through the last things knocking around in my head: 1. During the first act I was fully ready to fight the entirety of Penner, England, to protect my camp bespectacled piano son Reggie Dwight. Shades of the beginning of Velvet Goldmine, by the way, in this section. And of course later as well, in the surreal zany glamour. 2. The screenwriter is the guy who wrote Billy Elliot and oh my god yes, yes of course you did. 3. Big shout out to Elton & Bernie out here de-heteroing their own song for the film and swapping “wife” for “life” in the titular number. 4. They even turned the only Elton John song I dislike (‘Bennie & the Jetts’) into a REMIX VERSION before it could get to the part that annoys me! This is the perfect Elton John musical!!!